Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Jewish Blessing: "May You Live Till 120" and Why

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                        

Our Jewish blessing on birthdays of "May you live till 120" has been challenged by the pundits of America today in the Oregonian newspaper with and article from AP.  NBC news just commented that this decision is because it is bad for our society!  Today's Americans feel that the ideal life span is between 79 and 100.  I hope it was 13 year olds that were polled and said 79, thinking that was really really old, for it's my age next month!  In our great country, women can except to live until age 81 while men expect to live till 76.2 years.
                             Vida in her volunteer position at the Adventist Medical Center

Moses was able to reach 120, and for this reason we always pass on this hope for our loved ones.  People have been known to get pretty close to it.

 Today's paper also includes the exercise regimen of one of Portland's centenarian, Vida Trout, who is 101.  At her rate, she just might make it to 120.  The hope for many people polled is that they reach 90 today instead of 120.  Vida puts me to shame.  She's chubby, but it isn't stopping her.  She exercises 4 days a week for 30 minutes in a class!  On top of that she takes tai chi  twice a week for an hour each, and walks for a mile daily.  Then she spends her time volunteering.  This woman is so social!  She walks about 3 miles in the hospital where she volunteers delivering items to patients.  She attends church every Sunday as well as play all sorts of card games. Every Friday she finds time to play pool with a 19 year old and ping pong on Tuesdays.  Having a definite schedule planned out like a lesson plan is good for you, she professes.  This woman has good bone density tests, and rarely snacks. She's never smoked or tasted alcohol.   No wonder few of us have been reaching her age.  She's bright and can run rings around me!

Moses thought he could sit back in his rocking chair on the porch when he was about 79 years of age when G-d spoke to him, telling him he had a job to do.  He had to return to Egypt where he had come from and free the Israelites and take them back to where they had come from; Canaan.  G-d thought it would only take him a few weeks of his time, most likely.  It took Moses from the time he was 80 to 120 to accomplish this deed that turned out to be harder than he had thought.  He never made it into the promised land but died just outside of it, sending Joshua to lead his people into the Promised Land.  Not only did Moses give the Israelites leadership and the Ten Commandments, but also wrote the Torah for us as he understood it from our maker, giving us the recipe for being good people.  All his good deeds came about in his old age.

I notice that the length of days given to people as documented in our Torah (Old Testament) went consistently downward as time marched on from ages like 900 years down to 120.  Abraham, born in the 2nd millennium, lived until age 175.   It makes me wonder that either the quality of air and water consistently changed or the base of math used changed, but the ages are very consistent.  Foods have no doubt also changed along with the nutrition they are packed with.   Choices of foods have altered a great deal in the past 50 years to our detriment as well as to our advantage while our medical knowledge of prolonging life has improved tremendously.

Our oldest Jewish American just died at 113 years and 301 days in New York City.  This Brooklynite was Evelyn Kozak who was born August 14, 1899 in Brooklyn from Russian parents and died June 11, 2013 in Brooklyn.  She had been the mother of 5 children and died of a heart attack.  She played Scrabble until age 95.  "When someone observed once that she was very honest, she responded: "Honesty doesn't come in degrees. You are either honest, or not."  I believe this shows that living a good clean life has its advantages on the stress we carry.  Stress can do us in.  

Still alive (Barukh ha shem)  is Johanna Mazibuko in South Africa.  She's 119.  I think she's going to make it to 120 for sure.  This active lady was born in 1894 and makes her own bed every morning!  She lives in the small town of Kerksdorp which is NW of Johannesburg.  Her 77 year old son lives with her.  I bet she still does her son's laundry as she does everything else in her house.

Jean Calment of France was born on February 21, 1875 and lived for 122 years and 164 days, dying on August 4, 1997.  She is the longest living recorded by wikipedia which has 99 centenarians listed who lived between the ages of 113 to 122 since 1992.

Most centenarians have all been females, but on the list I found Walter Breuning who lived for 114 years 205 days.  He was born September 21, 1896 in Minnesota and died April 14, 2011.  South Dakota was where he was raised.  He even smoked cigars!  This railroad man was a Freemason belonging to the Scottish Rite part, so he was also very social-minded.

May our Vida live till 120! And may we all strive for better health and longer and improved  life.

Resource: Oregonian newspaper 8/7/13, page A4 Live to 120?  Most Americans skeptical, poll finds, by Lauran Neergaard, AP
 page C6 Thriving centenarian keeps a busy schedule by Nancy Dow, Oregonian on Vida